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June 9, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Nashville, Tennessee - Practice Day

THE MODERATOR: Good morning. Welcome everyone to today's conference call. Questions for Coach.

Q. Good morning, Mike. Thank you for doing this. Other than the obvious of other teams having good players who also want to win, why can it be such a challenge to close out a series?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I just think, you know, teams that advance this far in the playoffs are good teams, and they have a lot of pride. So those elimination games are always the most difficult.

I just have so much respect for this league and how good the teams are in this league, and I think the elimination games are just an indication of the compete level that takes place throughout the course of this NHL playoffs. I think that's what makes this trophy as difficult to win as it is, but it's also what makes it as rewarding.

Q. Good morning, Mike. In the past, we used to hear from the Penguins players that it was hard to play with Sid, that not everybody could keep up with his pace and his way of thinking the game. So why have you been so comfortable using him with rookies, with younger players who could have had the same difficulties that star players had before?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I would argue, just based on my experience of coaching Sid over the last two seasons, that he has great adaptability to his game, and that he's such an elite player that he can adjust his game to whoever he's playing with. We've seen him do that throughout the course of my tenure here in coaching him.

We've had him with different types of players, and whether they be north-south physical guys that go to the net, like a Hornqvist or a Kunitz, or he plays with some guys with offensive instincts and elusive play-making guys like Jake Guentzel or Conor Sheary. Sid can adapt his game to play with those guys as well.

My theory of coaching Sid is just the opposite. I think he's a guy that is very complementary, regardless of who we put him with, he has the ability to adapt his game to the players that play with him.

I think one of the things that allows our young kids to play with Sid is how he interacts with these guys. He's very encouraging. He's very supportive, and these guys, they so look up to him for what he's accomplished in the game and the player and the person that he is, that they'll go through a wall for him. I give Sid a lot of credit for his leadership skills and how he interacts with these guys on a daily basis.

Q. Also, if I may, this series is the only one so far in the playoffs that hasn't had a one-goal game. Do you have an explanation for that?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I really don't. I'm not sure what the explanation is. I think sometimes just every game tends to take on its own identity, and I think we're just trying to prepare for that one game ahead of us, and we're hopeful that we'll put our best game on the ice.

Q. Coach, Geno and Phil had big nights on the score sheet last night after Geno said they'd step up. And what do you think of their leadership in that regard, Hainsey's coast-to-coast rush there, with the huge goal?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I thought Geno and Phil had huge games for us. They're such a big part of our team. We rely on them in so many areas. For those guys to step up the way they did in such an important game for our team, I think, speaks to the character of their person. These guys care about the Penguins. They want to win. And I believe their games have been gaining traction here over the last couple of games. These guys are playing better and better. I mentioned that after Game 4.

So to see these guys get rewarded on the score sheet, but it was more than just the score sheet last night. These guys played the game the right way. They played a 200-foot game, quick game. And they were certainly difficult to play against. And you can see how dangerous they are when they have the puck. I thought they were a threat almost every shift they were on the ice. And when they play that way, they're inspiring to their teammates. Certainly, they had a huge game for us.

As far as Ron Hainsey is concerned, that's not something that we grow to expect when he takes the puck coast to coast. He's a pretty solid stay-at-home guy, and we rely on him for being a hard defender and helping us get out of our end zone, but certainly, you know, he shows the ability once in a while that he can jump into the offense. For him to get rewarded with a goal last night is huge.

Q. Hi, Coach. What does it mean to your group of defensemen and to you that they were able to go out there last night and have such a strong game defensively after maybe not playing up to their expectations earlier in this series?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I think it's great for them. I think it's great for our team. You know, I've said on a number of occasions throughout the course of this playoffs that our defense group is, in a lot of ways, the unsung heroes of this team. I think they fly under the radar, for obvious reasons. You know, we have a lot of dynamic forwards that make a lot of great plays through the course of games, that a lot of times on a lot of nights become the story line. But this team doesn't have success if that group of defensemen doesn't play the way that they've played throughout the course of this playoffs.

I thought last night might have been their best night as a group of six. These guys are defending hard. They're blocking shots. They're doing all the little things, I think, that don't necessarily show up on the score sheet, or you can't necessarily quantify in a statistic, but they certainly -- those little things add up to helping a team win games.

So I know how appreciative the coaching staff is, and I know how appreciative the forwards are when these guys are giving it their all to help this team win.

Q. Coach, just quickly, how is Olli Maatta?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Olli Maatta is fine.

Q. Okay. And the other question I had was does a 6-0 final score almost make your job harder going into Game 6? Like in the sense that you have to convince your guys not to be satisfied.
MIKE SULLIVAN: No, I don't think it makes it harder because I think this group of players understands that it's one game, and that's all it is. It was a great win for us. I think it should give our team a boost of confidence going into the next game. But having said that, it's one game, and we've got to put it behind us and make sure we set our sights on that one task in front of us, and that's Game 6.

You know, I believe this team has a certain maturity to it, and it starts -- it always starts with our leadership. I think they understand how these series go and how, from one game to the next, we have to reset the mindset and just be ready to play that game right in front of us.

So I don't believe that game last night, regardless of how it went, was going to be any particularly unique challenge for the one ahead of us. I believe that this group understands the circumstances that we're in. I think they have a lot of experience to draw on. So we understand how difficult this game is going to be and how hard that we're going to have to play and how prepared we're going to have to be ultimately to have success.

Q. Mike, kind of going off what you just said, you guys are in the same position you were last year, up 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Final, but you've gotten here without a guy like Kris Letang. You've had other injuries to other key players. Maybe the offense at times hasn't been as potent as it was last year. You've kind of touched on this throughout the playoffs, but what does that say about the way that this particular group responds to adversity? And also, do you appreciate the differences between these two lines?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I think it says a lot about the people we have. I think these -- I really believe this group of players is a unique group of players. They have a unique chemistry. They really care for one another. They're a close knit group. They play hard for one another, and they have an appetite to win. And I think they've provided plenty of evidence to suggest that with the deep runs that they've had in the last couple of seasons.

So I can't say enough for this group of players. You know, I've said on a number of occasions that they're a privilege to coach, and I sincerely mean that. These guys, we push them hard each and every day only because we have such high expectations for them. These guys are the guys that actually go on the ice every day, and they make the commitment and the sacrifices to help this team win and advance. They understand that we haven't accomplished anything to this point and that there's one more game that we have to go out and earn, and I believe that this group has the will and the character to do so.

And I think that's what -- with all the adversities that this team has faced over the course of this season, I think that's really what jumps out at me is just the character of the people that we have in our dressing room.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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